Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What the Beck?



I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.
Glenn Beck, March 2, 2010

The popular radio and TV conservative political pundit, a devout Mormon, is telling his audience to run for the back door of the sanctuary if their pastor tells them to fight for justice. He, of course, equates this kind of biblical teaching with what the Commies and Nazis were saying 50 years ago because, you know, social justice is only emphasized by totalitarian dictators (sarcasm alert).

EasyYolk represents a Christian movement that would give the exact opposite advice as Beck does. If your church is not grieved by injustice and economic exploitation rampant in our world, then you should be greatly concerned and demand that social justice be at the forefront of your ministry. But don't leave your church just yet! Bring the matter before your congregation (Matt 18; Acts 15) and talk about it and pray about it and make a decision as a family of God who is saturated with the compassion, humility, service and self-donating love of Jesus. You should leave only when your fellow believers tell you and absolutely demand that it is the Absolute Truth that "Jesus was spiritual, not political" or that "the gospel is about saving as many people for eternal life as you can, not doing good works" or that we "should render unto Caesar what is Caesar and render unto God what is God's" which many have taken to mean that church and politics shouldn't mix.

Long before even the days of Jesus and his very first disciples, "social justice" has been at the very heartbeat of what it means to participate with God's People as the salt and light to this tasteless and dark world of oppression, abuse and rebellion. The Hebrew prophets railed against the rampant idolatry and economic exploitation in Israel, calling for the leaders and the wealthy "to let justice roll down like mighty waters." Jesus of Nazareth must be interpreted in this context: as
yet another prophet calling God's people, the Jews and eventually some Gentiles, to give to, love, feed and serve "the least of these." Echoing the words of Isaiah, Jesus proclaimed that he was "anointed to preach good news to the poor" (Luke 4) in his inaugural sermon in Nazareth.

However, in our American context, the Church started to divide into "fundamentalist" and "liberal" camps about 125 years ago in what American Christian historian George Marsden calls "The Great Reversal." The self-named fundamentalists (getting back to the fundamentals of the Bible) turned their backs on socio-political engagement and put their focus on "getting people saved," which for them meant offering folks, here and abroad, the only way to get to heaven: to invite Jesus into their hearts. They combined this gospel of individual salvation and personal piety with an extremely conservative or ambivalent political emphasis. They saw "politics" as mostly a waste of time unless it threatened to affect personal morality or gave too much voice to the liberals who embraced the "social gospel" that smacked of Marxism or socialism. In the past decade, however, the conservative Evangelicals have been trending towards "social justice" causes again, in addition to the "evangelism" and "missions" efforts that strive to save the billions in our world do "don't know Jesus." They are advocating for the poor and the destitute and fighting awful social plagues like HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and homelessness, while daring to think differently about sensitive political issues like immigration, torture and even universal health care. These are great signs.

Enter Beck and the recent "upsurge" of Tea Party activity. There is fear in the air (are they the cause or the beneficiary), calling our President a "socialist" and a "fascist," while toting signs around with him growing a Hilter-moustache. Beck's latest sermon is a strategy to sway conservative evangelical churches who have made important changes in the past decade. It is yet another McCarthyite scare tactic designed to whip the Fox crowd into a frenzy. But we Christians aren't "for social justice" because of Marx. We care about making society more equitable and sustainable and humane because of Jesus.

Thank God for the open airwaves. We Christians know exactly what Beck thinks...and we should be horrified.
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Update: March 12

LA Times did a story today on the connection between Christians and the Tea Party Movement here

-Theological Autopilot

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